Everything you need to know about buying and selling real estate in Mexico, Puerto Vallarta, and the Banderas Bay region

Understanding Negotiating Styles

Canadian and American Business Practices

If we understand social and business customs of our neighbors, it is easier to accomplish an objective between parties.

In our market of Puerto Vallarta from Barra de Navidad in the south to Lo de Marcos on the north, we have the three nationalities living and working together. Here we reference the Canadians and Americas while in their own countries. Next, we will review the Mexican business practices and highlight their differences from their two North American cousins.


In Canada, punctuality is considered important. As a foreigner, you will be expected to be prompt, even if your Canadian counterpart is not.

In negotiating, styles tend to be very similar to those in the United States, although the pace may be slightly slower.  Canadians associate the United States with self-promotion and “hype.”

Never inflate a product’s benefits; it could generate claims of illegal promotion.  When dealing with French Canadians, it is important to have all material written in French, as well as English.

In general, the manners of English-speaking Canadians are similar to those of English-speaking U.S. citizens.  Canadian business people expect a firm handshake, direct eye contact, and an open, friendly manner.

Despite these similarities, English-speaking Canadians are closer to the reserved traditions of the British than U.S. citizens.  It is important not to come off as an overbearing boor from the United States.

Acknowledge Canadians’ desire for a “Canadian identity.”  French Canadians may stand closer while talking, use more expansive gestures, and are more likely to touch during a conversation.

Canada is multi ethnic nation-British, French, Inuit, Indian, German, and the etiquette of business people may reflect their ethnic background.  For example, many wealthy Hong Kong Chinese have acquired Canadian citizenship. Their habits may be very different from those of other Canadians.


In the United States, punctuality is highly emphasized. If you are going to be late, call and let your contact know.  You should be prompt to a dinner invitation.  If you are invited to a cocktail party, you can be a few minutes late; you do not need to call if you are up to half an hour late.

Business is done at lightning speed in comparison to many cultures.  U.S. sales people may bring final contracts to their first meeting with prospective clients.  In large firms, contracts can often be approved by one middle manager in one meeting.

While knowing the right people and having many contacts in business is valuable, it is not seen as being as important for a salesperson as a good history of sales. Sales staffs are evaluated and compensated on their “track records” rather than the potential or exploiting of their contacts.

The normal focus in negotiations is the “bottom line” of financial issues, new technology, and short-term rewards. US executives begin talking about business after a brief exchange of small talk wherever they are meeting: home, office or a restaurant.

The United States is the most litigious society in the world, and there are lawyers who specialize in every industry and segment of society.

The standard start to a conversation is “What do you do” meaning what kind of work do you do and for whom?”  This question is not considered rude or boring.

Until you know a person well, do not discuss religion, money, politics, race, family planning, or sex discrimination.  Topics that can be discussed are a person’s job, travel foods and dieting, exercise, sports, music, movies, and books.

Most business people have business cards, but they are not exchanged unless you want to contact the person later.  Your card will not be refused, but you may not be given one in exchange. Don’t be offended by this.  The business card will probably be put into a wallet or purse and is not meant to show disrespect.

If you are offered food or drink, you are not obligated to accept. Also, your host will probably not urge you to eat, so help yourself whenever you want. Many foods are eaten with the hands and it is not considered rude to eat while walking; many people also eat in their cars while driving.

In greeting, the standard is a smile, often accompanied by a nod, wave or verbal greeting.  In business situations, a handshake is used, which is very firm. Weak handshakes are taken as a sign of weakness.

Men usually wait for women to offer their hand before shaking.  The greeting “how are you?” is not an inquiry about your health.  The best response is short and something such as “Fine, thank you.”

This material is taken from the “Kiss, Bow or Shake Hands,” written by Morrison, Conaway Borden.


This article is based upon Flex MLS reporting, legal opinions, current practices and my personal experiences in the Puerto Vallarta-Bahia de Banderas areas. I recommend that each potential buyer or seller of Mexican real estate conduct his own due diligence and review. If you have any other questions, contact me through my website.

Harriet Murray



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